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Food: CRAWFISH!!

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Woodbine Lions Club member has seen it all
Even before its initial founding, Joe Strickland was a member of the Woodbine Lions Club. Strickland was a charter member and has seen the club grow from its small beginning with members meeting in a small covered shed to the clubhouse that now graces the same ground.

"We started off with just a little shed so we could get out of the rain to cook, and we would have fish fries and things like that and pray to the Lord that it wouldn't rain," said Strickland of the early days.

The club started out as a way to get the county to place the old Camden County High School in Woodbine and when that succeeded they needed to get a new project, so the group helped the school by donating land for a new football field.

"The old field was just big enough for the football field," Strickland said. "They had the field roped off so you could just walk right up to the lines."

The new field was built with lights and stands and is now a baseball field across from the clubhouse.

"Like any club, when you don't have an objective then membership starts to fade," Strickland said. So on March 9, 1953, the Woodbine Lions Club was formed. The county chapter had dissolved and some of the members decided that they would join the cause.

Lions Club International now has approximately 1.4 million members in 193 countries. Some of the main programs that all of the Lions Club chapters support are programs like eyeglass recycling, cataract surgery and helping people acquire seeing eye dogs.

"We spend a considerable amount of money each year on buying glasses for people who couldn't otherwise afford them," said Harvey Fry.

Over the years, the club has not limited its charity to one area and looks to local causes in their own community that need attention.

The Woodbine chapter has given money to schools, charities and other organizations over the years and got Lions Club International to donate money to the city of St. Marys when a tornado hit some years back.

The club also supports a camp for the blind in Waycross every year that provides a place for blind children to have fun and participate in outdoor activities. "It is an amazing thing. We support the camp both monetarily and by going there and working with the kids," Fry said.

"We give away every bit of money every year, we aren't in this to make money," said Charles Quattlebaum, who has been a member for 20 years. "You get to do things for people, just not here in the community, but all over the world."

The Woodbine Lions Club had seen its membership decline in the early 1960s when Strickland was elected president, but he gave an acceptance speech that brought in more people.

"I made a speech that night and I think it had an affect on some of them. It wasn't that great of a speech. I accused them of electing me president because the rest of them didn't want the club to die on them. My plan to keep it from dying was that when the membership got down to three that we would sell the property and buy a house boat to meet on," he said. At the next meeting about 18 people showed up instead of the 10 at the previous meeting.

The club even held the first Woodbine Crawfish Festival as a way to help out a fellow member.

One of the members owned land that was previously used to grow rice and lettuce, but when he bought the land the member decided to try his hand at raising crawfish.

"He decided he was going to put in crawfish. I don't think that he made any money out of it, but he got a world of experience," said Strickland. The festival was also a way to help him get rid of some of his crawfish.

According to Quattlebaum, at the first festival they were expecting about 400 to 500 people and about 1,000 showed up. The festival now cooks close to 4,000 pounds of crawfish and draws roughly 20,000 people annually.

"What we were doing then, seems to me, easier than what we are doing now. We didn't have to raise as much money as we do now," said Strickland of the biggest change the club has had to deal with.

Strickland has seen the club start from a group of men that just wanted the high school located in their city and only admitted men to a 32 member organization that now admits women.

"It has been a good group and one of the most varied groups you can imagine. There have been some folks who have been multi-millionaires and some who are wondering where they are going to get lunch," said Strickland of the members over the years.

To become a member an applicant has to be sponsored by one of the members, but all are welcome. "All you have to do is be willing to help," said Strickland.

This story was written by Mark Dorolek and published in the Tribune & Georgian in 2006. Lion Joe Strickland passed away in January 2007. Lion Henry Williams is the only remaining charter member of the Woodbine Lions Club.

The club partners with the Woodbine Citizens Steering Committee now to make the Woodbine Crawfish Festival a success. The club members cook the low country boil.

The festival helps to raise funds to support the club's charitable activities such as the Lighthouse, Camp for the Blind and Leader Dog program as well as many local projects. Local projects include a scholarship given to a Camden County High School student pursuing a vocational/technical education and projects benefiting Woodbine Elementary School.

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